Microcosm experiments can inform global ecological problems

Tim G. Benton, Martin Solan, Justin M. J. Travis, Steven M. Sait

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature review

221 Citations (Scopus)


Global-scale environmental problems are rarely regarded as amenable to traditional scientific experiment. We argue here that small-scale experiments using 'model organisms' in microcosms or mesocosms can be a useful approach for apparently intractable global problems, such as ecosystem responses to climate change or managing biodiversity through the design of nature reserves. An experimental, small-scale research programme can easily be coupled with the development of theory and act as a stimulus to further research, thereby hastening both understanding of the issues and development of practical solutions. This process-from microcosm experiment to the development of practical application - has previously been influential but also has a long time lag. We suggest short-cuts in an attempt to stimulate the use of small-scale experiments to address globally urgent issues with meaningful policy implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516-521
Number of pages6
JournalTrends in Ecology & Evolution
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • population-dynamics
  • ecosystem function
  • environmental fluctuations
  • current knowledge
  • model systems
  • food-chains
  • biodiversity
  • prey
  • communities
  • marine


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